In the spring of 1890 the growing fever of the Walter Camp-style of football, formulated between 1880 and 1883 among colleges of the future Ivy League, reached Columbus, Ohio. George Cole, an undergraduate, is generally given credit for organizing the first intercollegiate team at Ohio State. He persuaded Alexander S. Lilley to coach the squad and brought in a renowned Princeton fullback and soon-to-be coach of the Purdue Boilermakers, Knowlton L. "Snake" Ames, to familiarize the team with fundamentals. The Buckeyes first game, played on Saturday, May 3, 1890, at Delaware, Ohio, against Ohio Wesleyan University, was a victory, but two other projected spring games could not be arranged.
Play resumed in November, with home games played at Recreation Park (near the current Schiller Park in south Columbus), but Ohio State lost all three. The next year representatives met with counterparts from Adelbert, Denison, Buchtel, and Kenyon Colleges to agree to various terms and laid the groundwork for the informal "Big Six" conference of Ohio colleges. Throughout its first decade nearly all of Ohio State's opponents were in-state teams. In 1892 Jack Ryder became Ohio State's first paid coach, earning $15 a week during a ten-week season. After losing his first game, against Oberlin College and its new coach John Heisman, Ryder complied a 22-22-2 record.
Over the next eight years, under a number of coaches, the team played to a cumulative record of 31 wins, 39 losses, and 2 ties. Home games were moved to a field on campus at Neil and 11th Avenues, then in 1898 to Ohio Field at High Street and Woodruff Avenue. Play was brutal and dangerous but continued to grow in popularity. The first game against Michigan, in Ann Arbor, was a 34-0 loss in 1897, a year that saw the low point in Buckeye football history with a 1-7-1 record.
In 1899 the university hired John Eckstorm away from Kenyon College (Kenyon had beaten Ohio State 29-0 the previous year). He brought professional coaching skills to the program and immediately won the Big Six for the first time by going undefeated, as well as beating Oberlin College after previous teams had gone 0-6. His second season was almost as successful, as the 8-1-1 record included a scoreless tie against Michigan. In 1901, however, center John Sigrist, a 27-year-old senior, was fatally injured in a game against Western Reserve and the continuation of intercollegiate football at Ohio State was in serious question. Although the school's athletic board backed away from a confrontation and let the team decide its future, a faculty resolution to cancel the season was not easily defeated and Eckstorm resigned.
In 1902 the team won its first four games by a combined score of 86-0, then traveled to Ann Arbor and lost to the Wolverines—86-0. From that humiliation Fred Cornell, a freshman football player, wrote Carmen Ohio, which became the school's alma mater. In 1906, yet another coaching change saw the hiring of Albert A. Herrnstein, the coach of Purdue, who had been a running back for Michigan and had scored six touchdowns against Ohio State in 1902. Herrnstein's four years were successful (although not against his former team) and also saw the first use of the forward pass by the Buckeyes.
In 1908 the name of University Field was changed to Ohio Field, and although the team continued to prosper, continuing losses to Michigan, Case, and Oberlin saw the cycle of coaching changes continue. By the end of the 1912 season, Ohio State's 23rd, the team had had eleven coaches, sixteen coaching changes, and stood 126-72-17, having never beaten Michigan. Among the oddities occurring during its formative years, the Buckeyes won a game by forfeit (its only win in 1897, over Ohio Medical), lost one by forfeit (Penn State in 1912), and had a player play for both teams in one game (Bob Hager, loaned to Marietta College in 1898, a game which Marietta won).
Read more about this topic: History Of Ohio State Buckeyes Football
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